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Kings-Blackhawks Preview

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Kings-Blackhawks Preview

GAME: Los Angeles Kings (10-5-1) at Chicago Blackhawks (6-10-0).

TIME: Friday, 8:30 p.m. EST.

The Chicago Blackhawks look to put together three straight wins for the first time this season when they host the first-place Los Angeles Kings.

The Blackhawks posted consecutive wins for the first time in 41 games dating to the 2003-04 season with a 4-2 victory over the struggling St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

Chicago hadn't won two straight since a 2-1 overtime victory over Boston on Feb. 14, 2004 gave it three wins in a row.

The Blackhawks, who finished 2003-04 with four wins in their last 25 games, have won three of four following a four-game skid. Two of those victories, though, have come against the Blues, who have a league-low seven points and suffered their 10th straight defeat Thursday.

Coach Trent Yawney had no trouble keeping his club's modest streak in perspective.

"It's only two wins in a row," he said. "We've got a long ways to go. (The Blues) don't want to keep going the way they're going so it was a good test for our team and our guys answered the bell."

Chicago has benefitted from the improved play of goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 31 saves Thursday.

The veteran netminder was signed to a big free-agent deal this summer after helping Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup in 2003-04, but has gotten off to a rocky start.

Like his teammates though, Khabibulin has played better lately, allowing three goals while winning his last two starts. He posted a 4.98 goals-against average in losing his five previous games.

Khabibulin is 13-5-1 with a 2.39 GAA and five shutouts in his career against the Kings.

Los Angeles opened a four-game trip with a 5-4 overtime loss to Detroit on Wednesday.

Alexander Frolov had a goal and an assist for the Kings, who have gained at least a point in four of their last five road games (3-1-1).

Los Angeles outshot Detroit 41-39, the most each team has allowed in a game this season.

"A lot of scoring chances," Los Angeles defenseman Aaron Miller said. "Not exactly the kind of game we were trying to play, but entertaining. Still, we got a point."

Kings center Jeremy Roenick also scored against Detroit, his first goal in 10 games and only his third point in that span.

STANDINGS: Kings - 21 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Blackhawks - 12 points, 3rd place, 17 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Pavol Demitra, 8 goals; Lubomir Visnovsky, 13 assists; Demitra and Visnovsky, 19 points; Sean Avery, 51 PIM. Blackhawks - Pavel Vorobiev, 6 goals and 15 points; Vorobiev and Tyler Arnason, 9 assists; Matthew Barnaby, 45 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 10): Kings - Power play: 15.8 percent (16 for 101), 21st in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (87 for 102), 6th (tied). Blackhawks - Power play: 14.4 percent (16 for 111), 24th. Penalty killing: 78.9 percent (105 for 133), 25th.

GOALTENDERS: Kings - Jason LaBarbera (8-2-1, 0 SO, 2.44 GAA); Mathieu Garon (2-3-0, 3.24). Blackhawks - Khabibulin (5-9-0, 3.69 GAA); Craig Anderson (1-1-0, 5.12).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Kings, 3-1-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 18, 2004; Kings, 2-1. At Chicago, Frolov scored with 8:26 left as the Kings improved to 6-3-1 in their last 10 games against the Blackhawks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 3-2-1 on the road; Blackhawks - 3-3-0 at home.


Associated Press
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